Year Rewind: 2020
🕒 Published on December 23, 2020 ⚡️ 14 minutes read🔖 #writing
The year 2020 is coming to an end. The Earth is completing one more revolution around the Sun.
I am not a big fan of new year's resolutions since I never end up completing or even following one for a long time. However, I do like to introspect on the year passing by 😬.
The thing is, just like the Earth’s revolution, this year, I feel like I have also gone around a circle and completed one or two revolutions myself. When the year started I had plans. I wanted to write code (as usual), learn some new things, and travel. The way it turned out to be is quite different from where it started.
I am glad and feel lucky that I did not lose my source of income from my day job and was fortunate enough to get a few opportunities. I am glad I did not lose touch with my network and made new connections.
Things I am not glad about this year include anxiety attacks and getting burned out. I have never felt how or what burning out looks like but only after going through it, I did realize what is happening with me. For me, in life in general, curiosity is one of the most important things in life. Without being curious, I won’t be writing this post, and you won’t be reading it. However, when I lost the ability to be curious about things around me both in the personal and professional world, onwards started a downward spiral.
I did not pursue anything else other than spending my time on a laptop that could help me take my mind off things or be a fruitful distraction. I wanted to do too many things but without planning on how to accomplish them and divide them into doable modular tasks. I lost interest in reading books for a while (an activity that I value most in my life and have been practicing for the last decade) and am still trying to cope or find a way to get back to my usual routine.
After this kind of experience, something did not feel right. And no, it did not get better after that. Not until I started to accept the fact that what I have gone through is the actual burn out. No, the lockdown or the pandemic wasn’t the major cause of it. They sure did contribute but I think if they were not part of the equation, I might still have gone through a similar phase. One thing lockdown or the pandemic brought out for me is to spend time together with my parents.
The safe way I have found is to make small changes and stick to them and then decide whether the things are working out for good or not. The lesson I would like to learn from this is to be organized with one's routine, being consistent while one can is better than anything out there, don’t try to change everything all at once, rather, make small changes and stick to them. Take breaks, mental health is an important aspect of being human, and right now is the perfect time to start talking about it and embrace it and experience the things that are not in my control even though they try to entwine with the stuff that is in my control.
I believe to get better at something is to do it regularly and especially, if one enjoys it. I do enjoy writing blog posts and being able to do it consistently helps me learn new things, update my existing spectrum of knowledge, and share what I know. It also keeps my life engaging.
There is also the other side that says “quality over quantity”. For me, it does not work that way. Writing, just like any other thing, is something one has to practice to write a “quality” post. How about practicing it in public?
Most of the posts I wrote are in the long form of tutorials to accomplish one thing by using a multitude of things. I am always surprised by the things that happened after I publish a post. Usually, the post I am expecting a lot from is never read by more than 100 people. The feedback sometimes I get on a post I wrote months ago is absolutely wonderful.
Here are some of the posts that I wrote this year:
- Styling the React Native Way. I revamped this post, which I originally published in 2019. React Native has changed quite a bit since this year started and I thought it was the right time to update one of my most-read posts.
- React Native and Firebase Chat app series. With an introduction to React Hooks last year, and the react-navigation library being updated to
v5, I wanted to cover both of them in some detail. Thus, I ended up writing a series of six blog posts.
Writing and taking steps in the Animation side of React Native is fun. There is a lot to do and a lot is happening when it comes to animations but I did a fair job on the usage of React Native's Animated API from a beginner's point of view in these two posts:
- I am not using React Hooks that much at work, but I did try to explore hooks from my own perspective. I wrote two posts, one on explaining how
useStatehook works and another on managing state in React apps with
- Expo came out with ease of using fonts as hook. I shared using it in Creating "Quarantine Pro" — A Fun Learning Experiment in React Native.
My personal blog has been the most consistent thing over course of these 12 months in my life. It deserves more credit than I give it. Also, I never planned to have a self-hosted blog until a friend of mine, Valentin, casually suggested its importance. I started writing on Medium when I was getting into web development back in late 2016 and early 2017. At that time, I did not think much about pursuing writing posts or the importance of sharing via creating content. It was all new to me. I was just exploring horizons and wanted to document the good things about it.
Three years forward, in 2020, I did not give much emphasis on Medium this year as my primary blog publishing platform. Even though I did reach an exploding 2 million views, I do not like how some publications (that I think have an impact in terms of audience) are forcing down to have a payment wall associated with a post published under their publication. I am not against getting the original author paid for their work but as a popular publication with a significant audience, it should not force a contributing writer and be open about it. That said, some publications are not forcing down and are still enjoyable to write for.
This gave me an opportunity to continue to build and maintain my own blog which was initially created using Gatsby. However, in the desire to explore things, I migrated my blog to Next.js in the middle of the year. I wanted to continue using it. As a framework built over React, I think Next.js is more flexible than Gatsby but in the month of November, I decided to migrate back to Gatsby since I feel more comfortable using it since I have been closely following its development for quite some years, and I was able to cut down the 10 minutes of build time that was happening with Next.js by 70% with Gatsby. I am sure that it was my fault that the build time was around 10 minutes with Next.js and I was too lazy and uninterested to actually debug it. Nonetheless, I am glad for the opportunity to try out Next.js for the first time and will try to use it in some other projects next year.
I also realized that Markdown is definitely one of the best things to happen in the dev world. I cannot imagine any other way to write. I did try MDX with Next.js but the maintenance and time spent on converting an MDX post to a normal markdown to cross-post on popular blogging platforms is too much for me.
Not focusing on Medium enough, also gave me the opportunity to explore two awesome blogging platforms that are meant for developers:
I started cross-posting on Dev.to last year and in this year I have managed to get around 100k+ views.
I am excited to publish more on Hashnode. Only in the month of December, I started publishing there. I think it is different from a usual blogging platform and one thing that excites me is how community-driven it is. Developers and the whole at Hashnode are always closely listening to the wants and needs of their users and this is something I have not seen much of. It's like building in public. The ability to have a hosted newsletter and use your own domain is somewhat unusual for a platform. I like where they are going with it and would be love to see how it happens. It's a high time we need a consistent platform that could be the "YouTube" for technical writers and publications (it might sound ambitious but it is not!).
Writing a blog post and publishing is just one aspect. Since the year 2018, I have worked with quite a few awesome editors and content managers at different publications.
Thus, I'd like to thank from the bottom of my heart, these awesome human beings for always listening to my ideas and not taking my mistakes too seriously, and sharing their insight and unique perspective which has helped me not only write but grow as a person.
- Filipe Lima at Jscrambler
- Kate Trahan at Logrocket
- Austin Kodra at Fritz AI & Heartbeat
- Nick Selman at Draftbit
- Margo McCabe at HarperDB
Without their feedback and honest review, their perspective on what works and what doesn't, I would have never been able to improve in the skill of writing. Most blog posts that you get to read on this blog or on their publications would never have been in the readable format and would have never seen the light of getting published.
This happened by just a Twitter DM. I never expected that I would be able to speak in front of an audience, even in an online, remote event. This year, I got the opportunity to speak about How to write consistently at Hashnode's Technical Writing Bootcamp, a free virtual Bootcamp to help developers who are getting started in technical writing.
Personally, this statistic does not matter but the GitHub's commit graph is fun. It is also great to see that I have less green or empty blocks on weekends which is a good sign.
In 2019, I made 939 commits. What changed this year? I started using GitHub at my day job for some projects.
I have also started maintaining one single GitHub repo for all the demos and examples I write using React Native and Expo blog posts.
Continued to maintain the expo-community project on integrating Firebase SDK in an Expo app, thanks to my friend Cedric and awesome people at Expo. I have seen it was helpful to some folks as they were getting started with Expo and Firebase. Will try continue maintaining it over the next and year include more Expo related stuff.
I run a weekly newsletter that is of late, has become a bi-weekly newsletter due to my inconsistency of publishing blog posts. I don't send out newsletters when I don't have anything to share in terms of blog articles or tutorials. I don't like getting spam and I don't want to spam anyone. I started taking sending out newsletters seriously in 2019 and at the end of that year, I had 845 subscribers. This year, it did manage to grow to 1201 subscribers. I did not count how many newsletters in total I send out and now it's too late.
I did move from Tinyletter to Substack. After using Tinyletter for 22 months, I was missing out on somethings, but importantly, I was not able to provide a good reading experience to my readers who open the email they receive and spend time reading it. Both are free, but I find Substack has a more modern UI and a pleasing to the eye approach. Thanks to my friend Alex Kallaway for making me realize this and convincing me to make the move.
I also took a free seven day email course called Blogging for Devs created Monica Lent. Without giving too much away, I learned a great deal from it. She is an inspiration to me because, in 2019, her income from blogging enabled her to quit her day job and pursue her own journey of bootstrapping a SaaS company. Reading her emails made me realize what I was doing wrong and how can I improve on some of the things I do.
I have received a lifetime of 26 coffee donations on Ko-Fi. Thank you so much 🙏 .
I think that if a book is able to offer at least one new idea from what I already know, is a good book.
I did manage to scrape through some good books this year. Here some of my picks that I enjoyed reading:
I like to read about the world of technology whether it is written from a perspective of fiction narrative or non-fiction. The Unicorn Project is one of the first books I read this year and it definitely goes in-depth about the process of what goes into a tech company and the importance of communication. The narrative might not be too true but overall it resonates.
This book resonated with me a lot. It offers good insights and guidance for a developer who is interested in creating content.
This book is about the mindset of working for oneself and I would add that it's a semi-autobiography of Paul's own journey of what he did when he left the traditional corporate world and how scaling and growth from an individual's perspective or for small-scaled bootstrapped business are not what it seems or the perception I had.
This book goes in-depth about being a technical writer from a software developer's point of view. It offers great guidance on how to get started, managing one's workflow and where can one find publications to publish their own piece of posts and articles. It also discusses the business aspect of being a technical writer.
This book by Seth Godin is all about why practice is important and how quantity helps one sustain that quality of work in their own domain.
My favorite fiction read of the year and why experiencing life matters.
Learning is one of the few constants in our lives. There are a few things that I've learned this year but I am going to share a list of new things that I want to learn next year:
- GraphQL and Amplify AppSync
- More of TypeScript
- Different UI and animation patterns in React Native apps
- More on React Hooks
- Delve more in Expo that is always improving and it's always helpful API.
I am planning to write blog posts that are in short format next year or may be add another way to share content 👀. There is a lot of stuff that I miss out on sharing since I am always thinking of connecting things.
Thank you all for reading this post and reading any other post, opening and reading email newsletters, reading my tweets on Twitter, and listening to me 🙏 .
Have a great 2021!